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A and E and Maternity Provision (South-east London)

Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2013

3. What recent assessment he has made of the future demand for accident and emergency and maternity services at (a) Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and (b) King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. (144338)

I have accepted the trust special administrator’s broad recommendations on the future of A and E and maternity services in south-east London. Appendix E of the administrator’s final report outlines the forecast A and E activity and births in south-east London, and the methodology used to determine that information. That includes activity at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

I am grateful for the Secretary of State’s answer. Following his statement and decision, does he recognise that there are still two significant concerns? The first is that any downgrade of A and E and maternity services in Lewisham will put pressure on the other trusts which they cannot cope with. The second is that there is not yet support among all GPs and clinicians, including in Lewisham, for the current plan. Will he assure me that he will seek their support before anything is implemented, and that he will give us the assurances that we need?

I recognise the concerns that the right hon. Gentleman outlines. As he knows, we have allocated £37 million to help the other four A and E departments that will take the 25% of cases that will no longer go to Lewisham to deal with that extra capacity. He is right to say that the way in which the plan is implemented will be critical. We need to do it properly and extremely carefully to ensure that we meet the concerns that he talks about.

When the Secretary of State announced his decision to downgrade Lewisham’s A and E services and transfer the patients to St Thomas’ and King’s, he said that Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS, had reviewed those proposals and that:

“He believes that…these proposals…could save up to 100 lives every year”. —[Official Report, 31 January 2013; Vol. 557, c. 1075.]

Having read Sir Bruce Keogh’s review, I can tell the House that he makes no mention whatsoever of saving 100 lives each year. Will the Secretary of State now apologise for misleading the House?

Order. Just before the Secretary of State replies, I ought to say to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Dame Joan Ruddock) that she is perhaps suggesting that the Secretary of State may have inadvertently, rather than deliberately, misled the House. Could she just confirm that? A nod of the head would suffice.

That is the right hon. Lady’s suggestion, and it is for the Secretary of State to respond as he thinks fit.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Sir Bruce Keogh accepts the calculations that were made in the proposals put forward by the trust special administrator that the plans would be likely to save about 100 lives a year, because they would allow the hospitals in south-east London to move towards the London quality standard, which would mean reducing excess mortality at weekends. Sir Bruce Keogh accepted that, and I accepted his view of it.

Order. Many London hospitals and the representatives thereof have an interest in the question. Newark is some distance away, but I feel sure that the hon. Gentleman’s supplementary question will be not about Newark but purely about these London hospitals. On that basis, I am delighted to hear from him.

I am disappointed, but never mind. We will hear from the hon. Gentleman ere long on another matter, I feel sure.

Demand for A and E services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and at King’s will go through the roof if Lewisham’s full A and E closes. The Secretary of State may claim that he is keeping a smaller A and E at Lewisham, but that is nothing more than dangerous spin. No blue-light ambulances will call at Lewisham under his plans, and even the College of Emergency Medicine says that they do not meet its definition of an emergency department. How on earth can the Secretary of State be so confident that other hospitals in south-east London will be able to cope once he has taken the axe to Lewisham?

I recognise that the hon. Lady has been campaigning hard for her constituents, but she massively overstates her case. The reality of the proposals is that 25% of the people who go to Lewisham A and E will no longer go there—the most complex cases among her constituents, who will get better treatment as a result. Those 25% will be spread among four other A and E departments, and we are allocating £37 million to help them upgrade their capacity. That is a sensible proposal that will save the lives of her constituents.

Local Members of Parliament are right to raise concerns about future capacity at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and at King’s. The recent King’s Fund report showed that between October and December 2012, many A and E departments in England faced their worst winter in almost a decade. Standards of care are deteriorating, with too many people waiting too long to be seen and many being left on trolleys in corridors or waiting in ambulances stuck outside A and E. Does the Secretary of State now accept that the NHS is struggling to cope with the toxic mix of cuts and reorganisation, and that patients in south-east London and elsewhere are paying the price for this Government’s mismanagement of the NHS?

Really, from a party that closed or downgraded 12 A and E departments when in office, I would expect a slightly more mature attitude to an extremely difficult and complex problem. We will not take any lessons in meeting A and E targets from that lot. The reality is that we met our A and E targets last year, but in Wales, where Labour cut the NHS budget by 8%, they have not met their A and E targets since 2009.